Selkies, Medusa, moss children and other myths and legends inspire poems in this podcast with Manchester-based poet Ella Duffy. Ella reads from her books New Hunger and Rootstalk and discusses how she finds inspiration in mythology and the natural world. She also invites listeners to write a poem inspired by myths, fairy tales and legends.
Ella’s Mythology writing exercise
For this writing exercise, you’ll begin your own reimagining of an existing story, from either mythology or fairytale, folklore or legend. It can be interesting to think about your reimagining as a form of translation; some aspects of the story will remain the same, while others may shift entirely.
Listen to the podcast for more ideas on how to approach this exercise and Patrick’s response which imagines Medusa’s head being kept in a Marks and Spencer bag for life.
As always please share your poems. They could be featured on the blog or podcast. Please send them here.
To read more of Ella’s poems and buy her books see her website elladuffy.co.uk.
You can also buy New Hunger and other books by podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.
Ella Duffy reads a poem from her pamphlet New Hunger. Ella draws on mythology and the natural world in her vivid and powerful poems which she will be discussing on this week’s podcast.
Bio: Ella Duffy’s poetry has appeared in Ambit, the Rialto and the North, among others. Her debut pamphlet, New Hunger, was published by Smith|Doorstop in May 2020. Her recent pamphlet, Rootstalk, was published by Hazel Press in November 2020.
Purchase Ella’s book and books by former podcast guests via the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop and help cover the running costs of this podcast.
Our relationship with clothing is lifelong and intimate. It defines who we are and can both reveal and hide our character and emotions. Our wardrobes hold our memories and darkest secrets. What poems are woven into the fabric of the clothes you have known during your life?
Abbie Neale shares poems from her debut collection Threadbare in which she uses clothing to address often quite dark and sensitive topics and experiences. She also invites you to write a clothing based poem.
Think of an item of clothing (real or imaginary) and develop a poem around that – What does it look/smell/feel like? Where is it? Is it ordinary or remarkable? What’s possibly been left in its pockets and what does this tell us about the person it belongs to? Where can the poem go from here?
As always submissions of poems in response to the prompt are welcome and could be shared on the blog or podcast. Please send them in here.
Find out more about Abbie on her website or find her on social media: Instagram @abbie.neale, Art Instagram: @abbie.neale.art, Twitter: @AbbieeNeale
Abbie’s book Threadbare is available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookstore. Bookshop.org supports independent bookstores and purchases made via this link earn commission to support this podcast. You can find Abbie’s book along with many others from previous podcast guests.
The first guest of 2021 is Abbie Neale who will be talking about her debut collection Threadbare on the next podcast. Here is one of her more recent poems broadcast on BBC Radio Norfolk and recorded by BBC Voices.
Abbie Neale is a writer, actor and painter. She holds a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Warwick University, with an intercalated year studying Acting and Scriptwriting at Monash in Australia. In 2019, she won the international prize in the York Mix Poetry Competition and the New Poets Prize run by The Poetry Business, who published her debut pamphlet ‘Threadbare’ this June. Her poetry has appeared in The North,Strix Magazine, Whirlagust, Re-side, Crannóg, Bath Magg and Abridged.
You can find her online at Instagram: @abbie.neale, Art Instagram: @abbie.neale.art, Twitter: @AbbieeNeale
You can buy Threadbare here. Poetry Non-Stop receives a commission for purchases made via this link.
Poet and visual artist Helen Ivory discusses her latest collection The Anatomical Venus. The poems explore how women have been portrayed as ‘other’; as witches; as hysterics with wandering wombs and as beautiful corpses cast in wax, or on mortuary slabs in TV box sets.
Helen discusses the historic texts which inspired the poems written in the course of six years extensive research. She also invites listeners to explore historical texts as a source for new poems.
There are many places to find primary texts: Libraries, books, newspapers, archives and online. Enjoy reading at first and see what you can discover. When something captures your imagination try writing a poem using some of the phrases and tone of the text. A good site to browse is www.eyewitnesstohistory.com
Helen Ivory edits the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears and teaches creative writing online for the UEA/WCN. A book of mixed media poems Hear What the Moon Told Me is published by KFS, and chapbook Maps of the Abandoned City by SurVision. She has work translated into Polish and Ukrainian as part of the Versopolis project.
The next guest on the podcast is Helen Ivory. Here she is reading a poem from her latest collection The Anatomical Venus. Helen’s readings are always captivating. The poems contain striking language and vivid imagery and her explanations about where they came from are fascinating. Helen will be sharing some more poems from The Anatomical Venus and discussing how she wrote them along with how to use primary historic texts to write poems.
Any serious poet knows the importance of redrafting. A poem can go through numerous drafts and change beyond recognition from the first jottings in a notebook to final published piece. It is also a difficult practice which takes time and effort to develop. It can be hard to see how to improve poems which either seem to be finished or failed attempts.
Choose two existing draft poems that aren’t quite working – find one where you like something about the form and another where you like something about the content/subject matter and try to combine them somehow into one. There should be an element of surprise that they’re not both about the same thing, but there is some way of making the two subjects speak to each other.
Alternatively, if there is a subject you’ve been trying to write about for a while but haven’t got where you wanted, review your existing draft poems on that subject, note down a few of the best lines/phrases/images and then try to combine them to make a new poem. Or take a set form (a sonnet, rhyming quatrains, a ballad) and write a completely new poem on the subject, but being led by the form.
This podcast regularly invites you to try writing new poems so this is a great opportunity to develop something you have already written. Maybe there is a poem you started in response to one of the other prompts which you can develop using these ideas. If you don’t have any draft poems take some of the poems you think are finished and play around with them. Whatever comes up, you’ll still have the previous versions so you’ve got nothing to lose.
As always, do share your poems. They could be featured on the blog or a future podcast. You can send them here.
Here’s a poem from upcoming podcast guest Ramona Herdman. Ramona lives in Norwich and her latest pamphlet, ‘A warm and snouting thing’, was published by The Emma Press in September 2019. It is shortlisted for the 2020 East Anglian Book Awards.
How can we blame you for blurring life with alcohol and barbiturates, when we all want to rub our faces blind on your soft stomach, your breasts,
have you breathe sad bourbon fumes into our mouths, sing a song then sparkle a quip, tap a tune in perfect syncopation?
You were born with one bit of luck (your looks) and you used it like a mountain – years of work, snow-blindness, crampon hooks, and the whole of your life climbing.
They tell your marriages like a fairy tale – the boy next door, the sports star, the sensitive intellectual – like counting to three means happy ever after.
Holly Golightly was written for you: wild animal, living on change for the restroom. The mean reds, the blues. Poor slob, poor cat with no name.
Marilyn, you’re the ghost of trying. Snowfield face and sequinned sheath. Work and wanting and wanting in that white-out smile. You make me hold my breath.
I watch you shimmy, in clothes too tight to walk in – jello on springs, kissing Hitler – in heels that hurt, thigh sliding round thigh, down the platform. Hassled by steam and a wah-wah tune. Perfect.
Haiku may be short but the best are finely crafted with no excess words. Award-winning poet Paul Chambers has made this succinct, beautiful and often misunderstood form his specialty.
On this podcast he explains how the form works and shares some of his own haikus as well as explaining why it took three years to write the haiku above. He also offers a masterclass to get you started writing haiku. See below for details.
I think it is important to centre your focus primarily on the subject, and not on form or syllable-counting. Haiku poetry is the sharing of a sensory experience, usually set against the backdrop of the seasons. This exercise allows you to explore this:
Write the words ‘summer night’ at the top of the page. In your mind, place yourself in a familiar location on a summer night, such as your garden or on a beach. Then create a bullet-point list of everything you can experience through your senses (see, hear, touch, taste, smell) in that place on a summer night. Begin with obvious things, such as waves crashing or the moon shining, and then start to notice the smaller things, such as the taste of salt on the breeze, or sea fleas running over stones. Then, using ‘summer night’ as the first line of your haiku, write lines two and three using imagery from your sensory list. Such as:
summer night sea waves crashing through moonlight
summer night sea fleas running over moonlit stones
You can repeat this as many times as you like, and you can explore different seasonal settings too, such as ‘winter morning’, or ‘departing spring’.
As always do share your haiku for possible inclusion on the podcast or blog. Please send submissions here.
Thanks to Le Pub in Newport for providing a quiet, Covid-secure venue for the first face-to-face recording in over six months.
Paul Chambers is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku Journal. To date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.
Paul’s haiku has been described as ‘a poetic spell’ (Modern Haiku), and he has contributed creative and critical material to the Times Literary Supplement, the BBC, NHK World, the Arts Council of Wales and the Wales Arts Review, as well as national Japanese newspapers, the Mainichi and the Asahi Shimbun.
He has won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, the NHK Haiku Masters Award, the Golden Triangle Haiku Award, and has been shortlisted for both the Haiku Foundation’s Distinguished Book Award and Distinguished Poem Award – the most prestigious prizes in the field of English-language haiku.
This week’s podcast guest is Paul Chambers. Paul is an award-winning haiku poet and the Editor of the Wales Haiku Journal. To date he has published two full-length collections of poetry, and has had work appear in some of the world’s most prestigious journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Presence, Frogpond, the Heron’s Nest, the Atlanta Review, and the Red Moon Anthology. A selection of his haiku has also been published in the celebrated North American poetry series, A New Resonance.
He will be be discussing this ancient and often misunderstood poetic form and offering a simple exercise to help anyone write a haiku. Here is a selection of his work:
freeing itself of itself the thawing stream
magnolia scent… sunlight in the hairs along my son’s ear
pre-dawn stars… plumes of breath from a cattle truck
morning coolness the meadow holds the shape of a deer